Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Western States Gives Losers A Break with New Lottery Algorithm

This last weekend, the Board of Trustees for the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run changed the policy for the number of tickets in the lottery for those who lose out in consecutive years. Combined with the restriction of qualifying races, this is good news for many-time lottery losers.

As spelled out on wser.org, instead of a single additional ticket in the hat for each year a runner doesn't get in, the ticket count will increase by 2^(n-1) where n is the number of years applied.

First year applicants will have 1 ticket (2^0).
Second year applicants will have 2 tickets (2^1).
Third year applicants will have 4 tickets (2^2).
Fourth year applicants will have 8 tickets (2^3).
Fifth year applicants will have 16 tickets (2^4).
Sixth year applicants will have 32 tickets (2^5).

The new policy increases the probability of being selected for consecutive lottery losers more significantly than the previous linear model. For example, if this new lottery had been used for the 2014 race, a 5-time loser would have roughly a 20% chance of being selected in the old method, and a 34% chance of being selected in the new method (assuming my Excel skills are right). A six-time loser (assuming 26 had existed) is looking at a 37% chance. It might, however, lower the odds for a two-time loser (roughly from 12% to 10%) with the additional dilution from those with 8+ tickets.

Hooray for the biggest losers! Well, it gets better. The odds for a many-time loser when the drawing occurs on December, 2014, is likely even better than this, given the change of qualifying races to the limited set of 100k/100m races for the 2015 race that will likely reduce the overall pool of applicants. Those who stuck it out may have a bright light at the end of the tunnel (I'm looking at you, Mark Tanaka!).

This new process will be in place beginning with the upcoming 2015 race lottery (held in December 2014). As before, if an applicant gains entry into the race either by being selected in the lottery or any other means (MUC, UTWT, Sponsor, Race Admin, etc) the ticket count will start over when they apply for the lottery. Also, as before, in order to gain extra tickets, the applicant must qualify and apply for the lottery each year.

Thank you, Board of Trustees!

- SD


  1. Wow - this really is good news for those that have failed to get infer several years! (I was standing in line at a burger place, wearing a WSER volunteer shirt, and had a woman come up to me and start badgering me about her boyfriend losing in the lottery three years in a row. I sympathized but pointed out that it wasn't my fault. Hopefully this change makes ordering burgers a bit safer for me!)

  2. I know someone who is going to be a 4th year applicant in December and is excited by these changes though a little scared he will get into both WS and Hardrock!

  3. Thanks for the honorable mention, Scott! Too bad I'm such a slow, middle-aged fart now. And I fear that with my luck, I will still need 256 tickets to get in. Just in time for my 50th birthday!

  4. Hi Scott,

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